Polycom SoundStation2 EX
Polycom is the top name in conferencing hardware--and with good reason. The company's phone systems offer a nice range of features and solid sound quality. The $699 SoundStation2 EX is no exception. This feature-filled conference phone, which boasts Polycom's signature three-point, Klingon starship-like shape, lends a modern touch to even the most ordinary conference room or office. Just don't confuse this system with the more affordable ($599) SoundStation2; the EX tag indicates that this SoundStation2 is expandable, meaning you can add extra desktop microphones if needed.
Each of the main console's three legs contains a built-in microphone, providing clean voice reproduction with 360-degree coverage from up to 10 feet away. The microphones are controlled by Polycom's intelligent microphone mixing technology, which activates the microphone closest to the person doing the talking and helps reduce background noise from the other mics. A 2.5mm jack on the side of the console lets you plug in a cell phone, but you'll have to check Polycom's Web site for a list of mobile phones that work with the SoundStation2. This feature is handy if no landline is available, as it lets you use the conference system's speaker and mics through a cellular connection.
Resting atop the console is a stylish grille that masks the internal 5-inch speaker, around which sit three green/red LEDs that indicate if a call is in progress, incoming, on hold, or muted. Located just above the 25-button keypad is a 2.38-by-0.87-inch, four-line monochrome LCD, which provides ample room for displaying phone book entries, caller ID information, call length, and the current number dialed. The LCD is crisp and easy to read, and it is backlit, a necessary feature missing on the recently reviewed ClearOne Max EX conference phone. The rubberized keypad buttons are responsive and neatly organized, letting you scroll through menu selections and perform simple tasks such as muting, holding, and conferencing in multiple parties with ease.